Jason Truesdell : Pursuing My Passions
A life in flux. Soon to be immigrant to Japan. Recently migrated this blog from another platform after many years of neglect (about March 6, 2017). Sorry for the styling and functionality potholes; I am working on cleaning things up and making it usable again.

Yudoufu

After stopping in Ballard briefly I went to my office to work on a long outstanding, slightly complicated project, and it kept me there a little late. I started to get fairly hungry, because both breakfast and lunch were quite minimal.

I had a simple dinner in mind.

During wintertime in Japan, nabe-ryouri (most clearly translated as hot pot cuisine or one-pot meals) is a preferred way of warming up at dinnertime. It’s a communal kind of meal, and generally involves multiple additions of various ingredients. In a restaurant, however, sometimes everything is placed in the pot before bringing it to the table. It’s typically heated on a small portable gas stove or a small induction cooktop at the table.

Kinoko-iri Yudoufu

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Yudoufu is perhaps the most assari of nabe meals. It’s light flavored, sometimes consisting of no more than some dried konbu (giant kelp) and fresh, chopped tofu. It is generally served with a sappari, or refreshing, dipping sauce, like ponzu.

Yudoufu must feature tofu, but a number of additions are quite typical. Hakusai, or napa cabbage, is a natural, and contributes a bit of a broth. I frequently include shiitake mushrooms and occasionally the thin, long enoki. For tonight’s version, I didn’t use enoki, but I did come across another good deal on chanterelles, which were cheaper than my shiitake. They provided a kind of earthiness that I don’t usually experience with yudoufu in Japan.

Other nabe might contain chicken, lighter-tasting shellfish such as hotate (scallops), and in some cases, the occasional crab or lobster. Heavier, meaty nabe are also popular. After the raw ingredients are exhausted in these stronger-tasting nabe dishes, many families will add cooked rice to make zousui, or rice porridge.

Yuzu ponzu

Hidden in my freezer is a small, slightly freezer-burned stash of grated yuzu peel. I owe this treasure to ceramic artist Minowa Yasuo, who acquired several for me from a conveniently located neighbor last fall in Mashiko, Japan. My remaining stash still seems to have a fair amount of the incomparable aroma of this citrus fruit.

To make the dipping sauce, yuzu zest is indispensible. Because of its power, I don’t really need complicated seasonings: Japanese soy sauce, a little citrus juice (I used yuzu juice also), and the yuzu peel make an aromatic, refreshing foil for the mild tasting yudoufu ingredients. Some people add might add shichimi.

Yudoufu 044-640w

 

Sleep-deprived

Somehow I’ve been getting to bed late recently, even though I’m reasonably sleepy at normal hours. I started jogging again this week, and I’m hoping it will contribute to being more restful at appropriate times of day.

I should be reporting on the mostly good business news this week, but I’ve been a little distracted… I’ll talk more later.

Almost ready for the fair

Today I received a copy of Yuuyake Shimbun, which covered my trip to Portland and printed an article that also looks similar to my press release. The full-color ad looks pretty good in newsprint; I was a little nervous about that since I know newsprint is a little absorbent and tends to have pretty poor dynamic range. The adjustments my designer made for that factor seem to be just about right.

I also sent Maersk a bunch of money to cover customs duties and freight forwarding fees for the first shipment, which Maersk is trying to clear today. Alas, the FDA is reviewing the shipment documents and will either review the documents and release it, or they may take samples, which will cost me more money. I'm just glad I didn't let Yamato route this through Los Angeles or this would be very messy.

There's another shipment due to arrive in Seattle tomorrow which may or may not be cleared in time for the fair.

July 4 I made something of a galette with ricotta, parmesan, rosemary, roasted patty pan squashes, caramelized onions, and spanish almonds. It turned out ok; the patty pan squashes didn't seem as fresh as I had hoped. Anyway, I brought it over to a party in Wallingford right on Lake Union to which Amelia arranged invitations. I saw my graphic designer Jennifer there, and Denise, a dot-com veteran who now works for Microsoft, whose home had been the paddling-off point for the Independence Day party last year. I brought Kazue along also. It turns out that the host works for Expeditors International, so his company may also be useful to arrange air transport for me.

After the fireworks, we spend some time chatting with those who didn't leave straightaway, and then a few of us walked over to another party a few blocks away hosted by a friend of a friend. I was already sleepy, maybe because of the lingering effects of my late night adventure with Yamato. Someone was convinced I was drunk because I was slumped in a chair and relatively unanimated... in fact, I had only consumed one glass of wine the whole evening and it was a couple of hours prior. Christopher, A musician or audio sculptor I've met at previous Amelia-connected events, was there; I've not seen him in quite a while, though I was perhaps too sleepy to appreciate being there. Anyway, we departed around 3am or so, and I finally arrived home after dropping folks off sometime around 3:30 am.

July 5 was a slow day, too. Thanks to two late nights in less than a week, I really didn't wake up at a healthy time of day. I also slept earlier than usual, unwittingly falling asleep on my smaller sofa around 10pm. I'm guessing I'll be overwhelmingly busy over the next couple of days.

Yesterday and today I received the necessary equipment and documentation for processing credit cards, so I should be ready to handle non-cash transactions at the summer festival. I am supposed to get telephone training on how to use a telephone-based card entry system this Friday. I also received the materials for setting up my booth display at the summer festival. They look good, though I'm wondering how the backdrop banner will hold up if we have any wind.

The financial pain of demo travel; last night's dinner

I do a lot of demos of my products at grocery stores where my products are carried. If I’m the broker, my client usually pays for the cost of sampling materials. But for things I import, I pay for the samples I give out. The cost of sampling is by itself quite painful.

The theory of doing demos is not that you will sell a lot of product the day of the event. Demos are a way of introducing products, getting feedback, and hopefully, getting such products in the mind of the customer. A few people buy something right away, and some people buy on their next trip to the store, and some people will remember the item when just the right occasion comes up. And, of course, quite a lot of people won’t take any action at all, but this is true of any promotional method.

The advantage of conducting a demo is the immediate feedback, the rapport you can establish with at least a few customers, and the potential for building long-term repeat customers. It’s very hands-on, and very much a way of telling the story of a product.

Alas, thanks to the ever-increasing gas prices, my occasional trips to Portland are never very financially rewarding. I’ve averaged about two trips per month to the Beaverton Uwajimaya, at a cost of about $30–35 per trip in gas, without considering any additional impact on my car’s lifespan or maintenance needs. Yesterday, when I fueled up in anticipation of this trip, I spent almost exactly $45 for 16 gallons of gas. When I got home tonight, I had to fill it up again, and away went another $42 or so.

On the one hand, this is a very difficult way to build product recognition. On the other hand, if I don’t do these demos, my products may not move at all, because people don’t get to know anything about them.

Of late, I have substantially increased my portfolio of products that I sell at wholesale, so I believe that these challenges are really just a matter of scale. But it’s still very frustrating to look at money disappearing so rapidly.

Last night I made a late bit simple dinner for three. It included a vaguely greek salad (feta, kalamata olives, tomatoes, cucumber, atop lettuce) with a garlic-citrus dressing, some hummus which I adorned with some olive oil and mild chili powder, some grilled mushrooms with garlic, some roasted red peppers, and some decent pita I found that is made in Seattle without the use of any scary additives or unpronounceable ingredients, and still happens to be moderately pillowy for something obtained at a supermarket. I also did some nice roasted potatoes again.

PitaAlittlegriechisch-mushroomsAlittlegriechisch roasted peppersHummus etc. Alittlegriechisch-saladAlittlegriechisch-potatoes

Sales call

Most of the morning I spent sorting samples of ceramics to show to a gallery owner in Pioneer Square. I had to run to the office supply store to get some labels so that I wouldn't lose track of which item is which, and I got another big box to make it easier to carry things around.

I finished everything by afternoon, though I didn't have a proper lunch. I nibbled a little bit, and got something small at Essential Bakery before my appointment.

Everything went reasonably well, so I've got to pack up a few other things from Akutsu-san and Senda-san (see my earlier post about the Mashiko buying trip for more details) and make a few revisions to my pricing schedule, then come back tomorrow to show the rest.

I made a few phone calls after returning and made a simple dinner. Unfortunately, I was so hungry when I got home I didn't gather the required gumption to go running. I'll try to wake up early and make up for that...

Oh, that espresso machine problem

Sunday I mentioned that my espresso machine failed during a matcha latte demo. It turned out to be a trivial thing… my thermal cutoff died. My initial impression that it must have overheated was correct.

I went to Home Espresso Repair in Phinney Ridge, just in my neighborhood. They were brilliant and helped diagnose the problem without so much as a bench fee, and sold me the fuse for $5 + tax. I also got a replacement for a slightly broken portafilter handle—a small plastic endcap had mysteriously disappeard some time ago—and they replaced the handle for a mere $1.

I went home and installed the fuse myself, and it seemed to work, and then I closed up the machine, and it seemed not to work anymore. Yesterday I went back to the shop and they weren’t terribly busy, so one of the partners tested and replaced the fuse in front of me, and made sure it worked before I departed.

When I got home, it seemed not to work, but I tried another wall socket before running back, wanting to avoid seeming like a larger idiot. That was a good idea, because it turned out that somehow a circuit breaker associated with that socket had been tripped recently, maybe when I was testing the machine the day before. Everything is good.

FoodEx 2005, Day 1

I spent most of the day in the international section of FoodEx, mostly because that’s the hall where I entered. I wanted to briefly say hi to my dragon beard candy supplier, and I also had a meeting planned with a yuzu juice supplier in the afternoon, who planned to meet me in the international hall.

A few companies I ran into had products quite compatible with my vision, so I spent a little extra time talking to a few of them. Among them, I met a Hong Kong based supplier of certified organic teas from China, which also seemed to have an excellent packaging design team. The woman who manages their business said that she spends a lot of time finding the teas and might only take one of the many selections of tea from a particular farm. I found a Malaysian-based producer of beautifully packaged moon cakes, very contemporary and hip looking, and fairly nice quality; the same company makes some nicely packaged European/Asian style cookies and cakes that have some crossover appeal. Another interesting concept was a Singapore-based old-school cafe with a contemporary interior design, and a signature toast spread that’s a sweet custard base flavored with a Singaporean herb. Most of those companies have products that would fit in beautifully in upscale supermarkets; they wouldn’t have an appeal limited to a first-generation immigrant audience. At the same time, the prices should be a little more compatible with the needs of these types of markets than my ultra-high-end candy.

As last year, official policy prohibits me taking photos during the food show, but I may get some packaging shots online from samples in the next day or two.

I met with a yuzu juice company I’ve been trying to get prices out of for the last 6 months or so. It sounds like it might be a bit of a problem to get the exact configuration I need from them until summer or so, when some new factory equipment is coming online. However, I now have a source should I need, say, 5000 or 10,000 liters of yuzu juice in bulk packaging. The main problem is that it will need to transport such an item in a refrigerated container, which would preclude any consolidation. And the pricing isn’t really that pleasant to look at for anything shy of 15,000 liters (which is nearly a full container load). So I might have to hold off on yuzu juice and related products until they can supply their shelf-stable products this summer.

It turns out, though, that they would be able to custom manufacture some salad dressing recipes and other related products I’ve been investigating, and they can also supply other useful Japanese fruit commodities made from kabosu, daidai, shikuuwaasaa, and so on. They even can provide me with pure yuzu oil, which is even higher grade than most cosmetics are using. So, although I’m not thrilled with the cost, I’m happy I can finally answer customer requests for yuzu products.

Tomorrow I’ll be at FoodEx again, and I will probably take all of Thursday at Hoteres.

Hanami: Cherry blossom viewing

Everything seemed to move in slow motion today, except my watch.

I got out of my hotel around 10:30, about 30 minutes after the official checkout time. Today the plan was to go meet some of Hiromi’s friends for a slightly premature hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in a park at Nakayama (Yokohama). I think we arrived about an hour and a half after our intended time, and we started preparing sandwiches to take with us to the park.

My contribution was roasting some red peppers and eggplant, then making roasted pepper, cheese and lettuce sandwiches, and some sandwiches made with briefly marinated eggplant and cheese. We arrived at the park around 2pm and snacked on various things, drank some aged 1988 Japanese sake (18% alcohol, caramel-like color, brandy-like flavor). Some drank “off time” beer, a recently introduced brand which has had its alcohol reduced by 40% compared to typical Japanese beer, or “happo-shu” which is a cheap beer-like drink produced in such a way that it once evaded various beer-related taxes.

The cherry blossoms in this park were probably at about 30% of their peak, but the weather was pleasant, and, as I experienced, the flowers are only an incidental aspect of the hanami experience.

After a couple of hours we cleaned up, and I gave a piggy-back ride to Sanae’s little girl Kyouka on the walk back to their home. We moved rather slowly, but Hiromi did some research to find hotel accommodations for tonight and tomorrow night; I’m going to Mashiko on a buying trip tomorrow and planned to stay overnight either in Utsunomiya or Mashiko. I also needed something for Sunday night close to Shimbashi or Toranomon, so that complicated things too. I should have figured all this stuff out on my own, but I really appreciate receiving help.

Actually we had planned to head off to Utsunomiya by car around 6 pm today, but we didn’t even get to the car until 10pm, so it’s going to be a long night, especially for Hiromi, who’s driving.

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